The smell of the liniment, the roar of the crowd

Marathon Gran with Josphat and Barnaba

Josphat Kemei and Barnaba Kipkoech were 1st  and second, I was 1497th


Yesterday was the Vitality North London Half Marathon, which makes much of its dibs on Wembley Stadium – the race begins and ends there – hence the proud strapline ‘The greatest finish line…in the world’

Confident words. I’d take issue with them, citing The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin as a truly great finish line. Nonetheless, yesterday’s finishing flourish was a fantastic experience. It’s not often you get to run your final 200m inside a world-famous sports arena.

I liked the little detour we took at mile six, too. It felt terrific to come off the ‘ard ‘igh road onto the beautifully springy athletics track inside Saracens’ Allianz Park Stadium. Like the runners around me, I picked up the pace here and completed the remaining seven miles pleasingly briskly.

Running the second half of a race feels like a very grown-up thing to do. It has taken me a while to learn not to go off too fast, in the mistaken belief I will be able to save up those first swift miles to earn me the luxury of going a little slower as I tire. The fact is runners tire much more spectacularly, and irretrievably, if they’ve expended more energy in the first half than their fitness will allow.

If you’ve worked out, through training runs, speed sessions and past races, what your optimum pace is for a given distance, running at a much faster pace than that from the outset will result in a tottering, depleted gait at the finish. We’ve all seen the runners trying to get over the line while completely conked. It’s not pretty. A well-timed sprint finish is the order of the day. Especially in front of a stadium crowd noisily supporting the impressive 6797 taking part in this relatively new, and incredibly popular, urban half.

Yesterday’s race went well, in the circumstances. My preparation had gone horribly awry because of social commitments involving vast amounts of food and drink, and travel. Of course, no-one was holding a gun to my head as I quaffed the alcohol I’d forsworn during training. I just have no discipline, with the result that I lined up for the half marathon bleary from lack of sleep and over indulgence.

A conservative starting pace was called for, then, so I stuck to comfortable 8-8.15min miles for the first few. At mile six it was evident that I was indeed comfortable, so I finished the race running 7.30-7.45 m/m. This, sadly, was not enough to earn me a PB. I’d been far too slow at the start, but I gave it my best shot in the final miles.

For my next half, I a couple of weeks. I shall start more optimistically and try harder to hit the 1:40 time I’ve been craving. The results below show that other old birds can run the 13.1 about 10 minutes faster than me. If they can do it, I can do it. Next half marathon, I’ll be up there with the fittest.

Those results in full

Overall position 1497 out of 6797

194th woman out of 2637

9th V50 out of 101

On the agenda this week:

Monday: 7 miles easy recovery

Tuesday: 6 miles track, 4 of them speedy (good luck with that, as I’m pretty knackered

Wednesday: 5 miles recovery

Thur: 10 miles, a few of them tempo

Fri: rest day + eating own weight in hot cross buns

Saturday: 20 miles long slow

Sunday: chocolate for breakfast (Easter)



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